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Trauma and Triggers: How They Affect Recovery Efforts

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Trauma and TriggersWhen talking about addiction and recovery, we think of trauma and triggers, and how a person in recovery can manage these challenges.

Triggers are people, places, situations, and things that make you want to use your drug of choice. Everyone with a past has been triggered by something. Triggers are reminders of events, people, and places that bring back certain feelings.

Trauma can create a lot of silent triggers. Triggers can run deep with PTSD and other disorders. For people with addiction, triggers are usually followed by a desire to use or do something else destructive.

What Is a Trigger?

You may know this already, but a trigger is something that reminds you of feelings that make you want to use. For example, getting in an argument with your significant other may be a trigger for you. The arguments make you feel bad, and your mind tells you that you used to “feel better” when you got high or drunk. Or you may feel triggered by the way a person talks because the slang they use reminds you of your drug dealer.

Here are some other things that might be triggers for you:

  • Holidays
  • Old friends
  • Old place
  • Arguments
  • TV shows with drug use
  • Certain songs
  • Certain slang words
  • Anger
  • Fear
  • Bars

These are just a few things that can trigger people so that they want to use alcohol or drugs.

Trauma and Not-So-Obvious Triggers

Some triggers, like your old using and drinking friends, can be pretty obvious. But everyone has their own background and often people have triggers that are tied to personal experiences. This is especially true when you have experienced trauma. Here are some not-so-obvious triggers that you may want to explore:

  • Sounds, smells, and sights that remind you of a traumatic event.
  • Obsessive thinking or intrusive thoughts.
  • Feeling like “an alien” or that you are not like other people.
  • Feeling tainted, broken, or unworthy.
  • Rejection by a potential mate or perceived rejection.
  • Feeling “out of your body” or numb.
  • Certain dates or times of the year, such as the month you deployed if you’re in the Army or the death of a loved one.
  • Feeling like a failure (or success, because you self-sabotage.)
  • Feeling defeated.

Which ones are triggers for you? Can you list a few examples? What other triggers do you have in life that may make you feel like using?

Trauma and Triggers Go Hand-in-Hand

For people with trauma in their past, emotional triggers can run very deep and feel very powerful.

When you’re triggered, you may feel angry, guilty, scared or ashamed of yourself. This may cause you to act out on negative behaviors. For example, if you’re feeling numb, you may hit a wall or self-harm. Then you will feel shame or low self-esteem and want to use.

If you’re feeling triggered, please go to a meeting and talk to others about it. You’re never alone! Learning to cope is an important part of life in recovery, and many people have been where you’re at.

Getting Help for Addiction

At Design for Change, we help clients overcome addiction every day. Our trauma-informed approach will help you learn new coping strategies as you move forward and reclaim your life one day at a time. Give us a call at 855-997-1372 to learn more about how we can help.

man thinking of his triggers